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‘Talking House’ Is Last Word in Shopping Ease : Real estate: O.C. brokers are turning to a system that lets potential buyers hear all about homes without leaving their cars.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Now you can let your home sell itself--literally.

An increasing number of houses on the market in Southern California sport signs that read, “Talking House. Tune Your Car Radio to 1610 AM for Information.”

A transmitter inside the home broadcasts 90 seconds of information, including the number of bedrooms, square footage and, most important, asking price. The system benefits prospective buyers, who can tune in to a house they like and learn the basics without even leaving their cars. It also suits real estate brokers, who see it as a way of easing their workload.

“This is an opportunity for home buyers to get information on a property without calling an agent, 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Bill Schonlau, a Newport Beach broker who has the broadcast devices on two beachfront homes he has listed.

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Nationwide, there are now about 25,000 talking homes, with about 2,500 of those in Southern California, said Scott C. Matthew, president of Realty Electronics Inc. in Fond du Lac, Wis., one company that makes the devices. His company’s transmitters, on the market since 1991, are in use across the United States, he said, though they face a challenge in urban areas where the airwaves are already crowded with signals.

“Eventually, talking houses in California will be as common as yard signs,” he predicted. “And there is no reason why nearly all of the homes for sale at any given time in this country can’t be talking houses.”

In Los Angeles, a company called Business Broadcast Systems distributes the talking house transmitters for Realty Electronics. No special license is needed for the federally approved transmitters, which cost real estate agents about $200 and can be rented for about $20 a month, Matthew said.

One expert who predicts a stronger market for such selling tools is Pat Neal, president of the California Assn. of Realtors.

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“We will see more talking houses and other types of devices as the home sales market comes back and the customer demands more information,” said Neal, who heads a trade group with 104,000 members. “We are aware of these technological breakthroughs and want to keep our members informed.”

Tom Archbold, a broker for Richard Thomas Realty in Laguna Niguel, sees the transmitters as a welcome sales tool because they weed out looky-loos. Buyers who call him already know the basics and are interested in the property, he said.

Archbold bought his first talking house transmitter a month ago and now has five in operation. The response has been so fantastic, he said, that he wants to buy more.

“I would have done it sooner,” he said last week, “but I hadn’t seen any around.”

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Potential buyers such as Joanne Worobec, a Riverside County resident considering a move to Orange County, says she generally doesn’t enjoy house shopping through real estate agents, so the transmitter system works well for her. In fact, as she was exploring neighborhoods in San Clemente, one particular house seemed to be calling her name.

“We saw this pink house that talked to us,” Worobec said. “It’s a great idea for people like us who are looking but don’t want to get involved with a realtor yet.

“This gave me enough information on the house that we wanted to call.”

Straight From the House’s Mouth

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“Hello! Thank you for tuning in to our talking house. One twenty-three Gaviota is a two-bedroom, one-bath, typical San Clemente cottage. The owner has put in new wall-to-wall carpet and tile less than a year ago. It’s a great beach cottage with a Caribbean flavor. We have listed 123 Gaviota for $236,000.”


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